Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association
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Taxi drivers in Washington, D.C. are fed up! After years of unfair regulations and lack of respect, we are fighting back by forming the Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association. Our association will be backed by Teamsters Local 922 and the 1.4 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
(WASHINGTON) – The Teamster-affiliated Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the city's more than 6,000 cab drivers, demanding that the District stop towing and impounding taxis and issuing fines to drivers who have been unable to install new dome lights or credit card machines.
The complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction were filed late Tuesday in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. They seek a delay until the District can assure that the credit card system is reliably functional and that a sufficient supply of dome lights is available. The lawsuit also seeks damages for those drivers who have been fined or had their vehicles impounded. View that complaint here. Because the drivers own or lease their vehicles, the economic impact has been severe.Show more
"The drivers are facing delays in getting the dome lights and the costs are soaring, but the city's answer has been to tow and impound taxis, which is shattering families throughout the region by taking away their vehicles without due process," said Ferline Buie, President of Teamsters Local 922 in Washington. "We have demanded a meeting with Mayor Gray and demanded a moratorium on towing and fines, but the mayor has not acted. As a result, because of this economic emergency, we are seeking relief in the courts."
Affiliated with Teamsters Local 922, the Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association is a new powerful, united voice for cab drivers in Washington who are independent owner- and lease- operators. The association held its first meeting last week with a standing-room-only crowd of drivers.
According to the lawsuit, dome light installers have required the drivers named in the suit to join waitlists of indefinite lengths. The installers have also been unable to state how many days or weeks after the Nov. 1 deadline that dome lights would be available for installation.
Driver Girma Tessema tried but could not get an appointment to have the dome light installed by the deadline. As a result, Tessema's taxi was impounded on Nov. 1 and he has lost the use of his taxi until an installer can give him an appointment.
"Plaintiff Tessema does not know when he will receive an appointment and must simply wait by the phone," the suit said. Five other driver plaintiffs "have all been forced to forfeit the use of their taxicabs until they can obtain a dome light at an indefinite date because of the risk of imminent impoundment," the suit said.
Another driver, Manny Zewdu, made about 10 visits in October to five authorized dome light retailers, but was consistently told the lights were out of stock. Even after spending six hours searching for a dome light, he was unable to locate one by the deadline.
The credit card machines (referred to as Modern Taximeter System, or MTS), are plagued with poor cellular reception quality and frequent log-in problems, including failing to timely start when a passenger first gets into the vehicle. Due to the problems, drivers have been forced to refuse passengers who cannot pay cash or lose money on fares when reception quality causes the meter to fail to record mileages.
Bililigne Senbet, a D.C. taxi driver for more than 40 years who drives for Sun Cab, had his taxi towed and impounded on Nov. 4 outside Union Station.
"My taxi was taken without due process," Senbet said. "The taxi was inspected a month ago. It's not a safety issue. What the city is doing is wrong. This is a violation of our rights, confiscating our personal property." Senbet was fined $100, plus he faces additional towing and impound fees.
On Monday, more than 150 drivers met in Freedom Plaza and marched across the street to the Wilson Building to deliver a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray outlining their concerns and anger over the towing of taxis and fines.
In the letter, the taxi association seeks the following:
Drivers will make their voices heard at the next meeting of the D.C. Taxicab Commission at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 441 4th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.
The taxi cab drivers in Washington, D.C. have formed the Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association, associated with Teamsters Local 922. Drivers do not oppose fair regulations, but the recent regulations and the way they are being imposed is not a fair process.
Here are some of the issues facing drivers:
Credit card machines
Drivers had no say in which vendors were selected for the new credit card machines. Many of the machine service providers are taking a very long time to get drivers their money. There is also a monthly service fee and a percentage fee paid to the service provider that varies, depending on the provider used. Many drivers prefer the Square system for their Iphones, which have a more reasonable (2.75 percent per swipe) with no additional fees and next-day deposit, but that was not an option. Some drivers had been using Square already, but will no longer be allowed under the current system.
New dome lights
Drivers used to have a requirement that the dome lights would have a 911 emergency feature and have a switch inside the car. Now, and this is another example of something drivers had no say in, a different type of dome light is required. It has NO 911 feature (so it's less safe) and it requires that drivers exit the car and reach up on to the roof to turn it on or off. These new dome lights cost about $450, about twice what we were told at first.
New paint scheme
The D.C. Taxicab Commission's website said the new paint scheme (red and gray) needed to be done by October 1, 2013, but most taxi drivers have not had time to get their cabs painted. The commission's website said drivers face impoundment if their cars are not painted. There has been a lack of information. In fact, during a meeting between city officials and representatives of Teamsters Local 922, union officials received mixed signals about the actual deadline. It is still unclear when the real deadline is. Drivers are frustrated and confused, and they face high costs to have their cabs painted, upwards of $1,100.
Again, drivers want to be allowed to have more input into these regulations, and they want more time for the regulations to take effect. Drivers also want to be educated better about the regulations.
A couple other issues:
This service is unregulated or, if there are regulations, they are minimal compared with taxi drivers. They play by different rules and it is hurting the taxi drivers' livelihoods.
Drivers need a stronger voice and more representation on the D.C. Taxi Cab Commission, and they plan to get that through their new association.
The Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association Leadership Council is now formed. If you have an issue or concern that you want the association to address, contact one of the Leadership Council members.
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"I want my voice to be heard. By forming this association with the Teamsters, the D.C. Taxicab Commission will hear us loud and clear."
"The regulations and rules get approved without much driver input, but that will change soon now that we have formed our association with the Teamsters."
"Many drivers are frustrated with the lack of information and all these new regulations. We are happy to have the backing of the Teamsters Union as we fight for our rights."
"Many of the drivers are struggling to make ends meet with all these new, costly regulations that have been implemented without drivers being consulted. The Teamsters will help us lobby the city to make sure our voices are heard."
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